Friday, May 19, 2017

The Bane of Kanthos

I'd originally planned to put this up officially for Forgotten Books Friday but I got busy and have been thinking about my son's wedding, which is coming up tomorrow. Anyway, I recently heard about this book on facebook and ordered a copy. I was pleasantly surprised. There is a newer kindle edition of this work but I read the original 1969 edition, which was part of an Ace Double with Kalin by E. C. Tubb. I'd already read Kalin in another format.

The Bane of Kanthos is a sword and planet novel, in the tradition of ERB's Barsoom series. An earthman is transported to what appears to be an alternate world via passage through a black gate. He discovers that the world is at risk from a great, reawakened evil, and that he is the only one who can save it. There are staunch allies, nasty villains, and a beautiful warrior-princess. All these tropes are familiar, but I enjoy them. What raised this book a little above the standard level for me was the fine writing. I thought the author's word usage and prose choices were excellent ones.

On Goodreads, there is an indication that the author, Alex Dain, has planned to write more stories about this world. The kindle edition is listed as: Book 1 in the Chronicles of the Gates. However, the kindle edition was published in 2013 and nothing new has appeared from Dain since. That would seem to make it unlikely that he is going to continue the series, although I'd certainly be interested in a sequel.

Even if nothing else appears in the series, I still think this one is worth a read for fantasy fans, particularly fans of sword and planet fiction.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Writing: Organic versus Manufactured

I had a discussion with a friend about writing the other day that I thought might make a worthwhile blog topic. It has to do with the differences between a piece of writing that grows organically and one that is constructed instead. Here’s my thoughts.

For me, poetry and flash fiction (750 words or less) usually grow organically. What I mean is that I have a seed of an idea, start writing, and let my unconscious guide me through. I don’t plan it, although oftentimes in revision I’ll make conscious changes to improve the piece. This is not, however,  the way, I write short stories, anything over 1500 words. Short stories are “constructed.” They are manufactured.  Although, if I do my job well the seams and welds in the story are invisible to the reader.

Now, my short stories often start out organically. They begin with a germ of an idea and the first 500 to 1000 words are often written straight out of that germ. But short stories have to have plot, and the unconscious typically only generates simple, straightforward plots. Those stories have already been told too many times. By the time I’m a 1000 words into a story I’m already engaged in the conscious work of building the piece to meet specific goals.

An analogy is this. A poem or flash fiction piece—at least for me—is like a wild fruit tree springing up seemingly out of nowhere. A short story is a carefully pruned and constrained fruit tree that has had many new limbs grafted onto it for specific reasons. Even the first 1000 words get this treatment. And I don’t just go through pruning and grafting once, but many times. The original seed is usually so hidden by the additions that it is scarcely noticeable

“Conscious” writing is immensely harder than just letting it all flow, but it does have its own rewards. One is that you have, in fact, built something with your own two hands.  And the final product is no longer all about  the writer.  It’s at least as much about the reader, if not more.  I believe this is one reason why it’s both difficult and dangerous to draw conclusions about writers themselves from the stories they construct. Just because a writer explores a negative theme does not mean that he or she is drawn to that theme. A writer’s characters and plot twists do not necessarily reflect the writer’s personal feelings and fixations.  Speaking for myself, although some part of me is in every story I write, I am not those stories.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Picking up on the Blog Again

Since my summer has begun, I'm hoping to pick up a bit on this blog, which I've neglected for quite a while. As per my usual, it'll mostly have to do with writing and reading, with occasional asides into whatever strikes my fancy.

On the writing front, I have a western novella about 3/4s done called "The Scarred One." Had to put it on hold during the school year, but now I'll try to get untracked on it. I've got quite a few completed stories that I need to submit, including two about the sword & sorcery character of Krieg. And I'm still considering self publishing a set of horror stories based on my dreams. I have about a dozen of those finished.

I'm working on a vampire story right now that I'm enjoying, and have opening scenes on several other tales that I don't know what to do with. Lately I've been working on a lot of poetry, partially because it takes less time and I can squeeze out a few moments from work here and there to commit poem-icide. Several of my poems appear in the latest issue of The Horror Zine. Thanks to Jeani Rector.

So, it is with good intentions that I post this blog. Let's see if that holds up through the next few weeks!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Killing Trail: Print Edition

Well, finally something worth reporting here on the blog. For almost a year I've been planning on publishing a print version of my western short story collection, Killing Trail. I published this on Kindle and Nook several years ago but finally used Create Space to produce a print version. You'll probably recognize the cover image. Lana took this picture of me at the local Flatwoods nature preserve. Not a great cover image but it fit and I thought, "what the heck."

I dispensed with the "Charles Gramlich, Writing as Tyler Boone," subtitle and just put the pseudonym here, but everything is explained inside. I plan on more westerns under this name. Here is the back cover blurb (with the link):

RIDE INTO DANGER! Killing Trail is a collection of western short stories written in the action & adventure tradition of such authors as Louis L’Amour, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Robert E. Howard. It contains:

Killing Trail: When they dumped Angela Cody on Lane Holland’s ranch she was scant moments from death. She managed to speak only a few words but those were enough to make Lane strap on his guns and ride out on a deadly hunt.

Showdown at Wild Briar: Accused of a murder he didn’t commit, Josh Allen Boone rode a long way from his Wild Briar Ranch. Now he’s coming home, and the real killers are waiting for him with a rope.

Powder Burn: They said Davy Bonner’s luck had run out and they ambushed him along a dark road. But luck or no, Davy wasn’t going down without a fight.

Once Upon a Time with the Dead: For the gray raiders, death was an old friend.

The work also includes two nonfiction essays, one about Louis L’Amour and another about the real Wild West.

The price listed on this is $6.99, but if anyone wants a signed copy you can let me know and I'll order some myself for that purpose. It should be a buck or so cheaper. Not completely sure how much cheaper.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rise of the Rain Forest: A Book Review

Visions of the Mutant Rain Forest: By Robert Frazier and Bruce Boston: Crystal Lake Publishing, 2017, 245 pages.

In an undefined future, the rain forest has taken on a grotesquely beautiful life. It and everything in it mutates wildly, incessantly. The only laws governing the changes appear to be chaos and rage. Some humans survive at the jungle’s ever hungry and expanding frontier; their existence is precarious. The people who live within the forest itself are no longer human.  Perhaps they are more, perhaps less. The cities fight back with flame and chemical warfare. The forest attacks with spores and vines and strange beasts. In the end, everything succumbs.

In this thick and meaty work, the reader will find poems, flash fiction, and even a few longer stories. Many of these have appeared in other publications but there are also a number of new pieces. Boston and Frazier appear to have been writing of the mutant rain forest for quite a few years, and I’m glad to see this material collected together in one place by Crystal Lake Publishing. It certainly heightens and reinforces the impact of the individual pieces.

I’m very familiar with Bruce Boston’s work, less so with that of Robert Frazier. However, I thought the vision of these two writers meshed wonderfully throughout the collection.  As I started reading, I was paying attention to which particular author did what. I soon stopped concerning myself with that as I got further immersed in the world. It didn’t matter any longer.

The greatest strengths here are word play, imagery, and resonance. Maybe word ‘play’ isn’t quite the right term, for the language is serious. Word “work” might be better. Others have remarked on the imagery as apocalyptic and hallucinatory. I concur. But there’s a bit more. The imagery is itself insidious—not in a negative sense but in the sense of entrapping and beguiling. It’s almost as if the spores of the mutant rain forest wash over you with every page you turn. You wonder if they might take root on your skin. What might be born from such a symbiosis? And there you have the resonance.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hateful Thing


When life struck its first blow,
he retreated before it.
But blows never stop at one.
So he kept retreating
until his back found the wall.
Within himself he found
hammer and anvil,
turned the ore of pain
into plate metal and shield.

Gilded and girded,
he strode forth upon the field.
And the wounds he took showed
only as dents in his armor.
On the outside.
On the outside.

A hero holds his own in the face of many.
He does not wish battle but does not shirk it.
He “stands tall.” He “fights the good fight.”
His face may be bloodied, his body bruised.
But it’s only on the outside
because his spirit is burnished within.
Burnished within.

Only, in this world
there are so few face-to-face fights.
He seldom sees an enemy coming.
He can’t watch every shadow where a dagger
might lurk.
And not only enemies wield the blade.
Friends and loved ones always know
where the chinks lie in the armor
that has started to rust.

When does the hero become the villain?
Is it when he begins to return every blow
with the force of ten?
Or when he returns blows not yet given?
But expected.

In time he came to enlightened rage.
When an insult was thrown at him,
he sharpened it with words,
poisoned it with his own blood
and hurled it back.
By then he was going armed
to every gathering.
Prepared for defense.
Or offense.
Or offense.

Finally the day came
when he looked in the mirror
and saw,
he had become his own enemy.
A hateful thing.
And for such a blow
there is no armor,
no retreat.
For such a blow must be the last
ever struck.